Pressing Issues

Gale Catlett likes to press. Anyone who has watched the Mountaineers over the Cat's twenty-four seasons at the helm knows that he likes to force the tempo, especially on defense.

With the Clearinghouse approval of freshman Drew Schifino and his return to the court today, Catlett would seem to have enough pieces to add the fullcourt presses he likes to WVU's defensive array. However, the loss of Tim Lyles was a blow to Catlett's plans.

"We will really miss Tim Lyles in that area," Catlett said as he discussed his options for this season. "We've been training him for two years, and now he can't play.

"I think we have some depth and some different people who are going to make a contribution. Sally is ideal for the press. Briggs is ideal for the press. Hargett is ideal for the press., and Schifino will be."

Initial returns on the press in practice were termed "mediocre" by Catlett, but he was also quick to point out that it was still early. "We've got a lot to learn. In ten days, we'll know a lot more."

"When you play the press, you have to be fundamentally sound. You have to know what to do. You get a lot of broken situations, and you have to make quick decisions."

So, with those thoughts in mind, what are WVU's chances of pressing effectively this season?Catlett's goal is to have three players that can rotate at the one and two spots, three players to rotate at the four and five, and two players to rotate at the three spot.

At the guard, things appear set. Hargett, Armstead and Schifino will probably top the rotation, and while Armstead isn't the most polished defender on the squad, WVU should be able to work around him in many situations. Also in the picutre is Jay Hewitt, who, while not as quick as the other three, has the knowhow to provide backup help.

The three spot is already shaping up as an interesting battle between Josh Yeager and Tyrone Sally, and each brings length to the position. Both are long armed and have the tools to be effective at trapping and getting into passing lanes.

The four and five positions are where the concerns lie. Chris Moss is fundamentally sound, but he is not the quickest four in the league, and he will have to reply on positioning and anticipation to make it work. Chaz Briggs, while more athletic, has the challenge of learning the different drops, traps and coverages that Catlett's multiple zones require.

In the back, WVU will have Chris Garnett as the most likely stopper in presses, and while Catlett thinks he's not ideally suited to pressure, Garnett says he is comfortable.

"We've pressed everywhere I've played," says Garnett. "I can get it done, and I can play up front if I need to."

Spelling Garnett will be John Oliver and Ales Chan, neither of whom would likely play anywhere other than the back position.

The verdict? Of course, we'll have to wait for the season to get the final results, but this team could be reminiscent of the guard heavy teams of Catlett's first years at WVU. Teams with guards like Greg Jones, Tony Washam, Diego McCoy and Quentin Freeman put tremendous pressure on opponents in the backcourt, while players like Russell Todd and Lester Rowe swooped down from the second line to steal errant passes and place traps.

Can WVU's 2001-2002 team approach that level? That's a tall order, but there is no dobut that the talent exists to be a much better pressing team than the past two or three seasons. If the newcomers can learn their assignments and be comfortable in executing them, the ability is there to have a harrassing press that should cause problems for Mountaineer opponents.

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